Oral Histories

Interview of Frederick Hammersley

Abstract painter.
Frederick Hammersley: An Oral History
Interviews not in a series, part two
Biographical Note:
Abstract painter.
Weschler, Lawrence
Hammersley, Frederick
Persons Present:
Hammersley and Weschler.
Place Conducted:
Hammersley’s office in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Lawrence Weschler, a former interviewer with the UCLA Center for Oral History Research, staff writer for the New Yorker, and director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University.
Processing of Interview:
This interviews was commissioned by L.A. Louver art gallery. L.A. Louver had had a long engagement with Frederick Hammersley, beginning with the presentation of the artist's exhibition "Paintings from 1970-1978" in 1978, just three years after the founding of the gallery. Hammersley's significance to the local, national and international art world during a significant part of the 20th century, coupled with a fascinating life story, led Peter Goulds, director of L.A. Louver, to recognize the importance of securing an oral history. Goulds approached writer Lawrence Weschler to conduct the interview due to the latter's empathy and engagement with the subject and his skill as an interviewer. Once the interview was completed, it was then donated to the UCLA Center for Oral History Research.
7 hrs.
Interviewee Retained Copyright
Transcript and audio for tapes VI and VII were not released on line because those sessions were not conducted by Weschler and the donation agreement only pertains to interviews conducted by Weschler.
Family background—Immigration of parents to the United States—Early childhood in Salt Lake City—Visit to parents’ families in Sweden and England—Later childhood in Idaho and Utah—Attends the University of Idaho—Gets paid work lettering signs—Art classes while at college—Family moves to San Francisco—Hammersley attends Academy of Advertising Art in San Francisco—Hammersley’s sister attends Chouinard Art Institute—Hammersley attends Chouinard—Experiences at Chouinard.
More on experiences at Chouinard—Submits works to art exhibitions—Drafted into the army, Hammersley is assigned to the Signal Corps in England—Reassigned to Paris after D-Day—Visits the studios of Picasso, Braque, and Brancusi—Experiences of post-war Berlin—Interest in photography—Attends classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
More on the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Paris art world—Hammersley returns home from Europe and resumes his studies at Chouinard—Enrolls at the Jepson Art Institute—The late-1940s Los Angeles art scene—Hammersley’s efforts to make a living—Experiences as an art teacher—The seven tools of a painter—Experiments in shape and color.
More on experiments in shape and color—Develops “hunch” paintings—Hammersley’s working processes—Abstract expressionism in Los Angeles—Galleries and exhibitions—Four Abstract Classicists exhibition.
More on the Four Abstract Classicists exhibition—Family’s reaction to the exhibition—Selling paintings—The 1950s Los Angeles art scene—Hammersley’s solo exhibitions—The evolution from hunch paintings to geometric paintings—Notebooks of painting ideas—More on Hammersley’s working processes—More on the idea notebooks—More on the geometric paintings—More experiences as an art teacher—Photographic work—Hammersley’s personal relationships—Lack of drive in his career—More on painting notebooks—How Hammersley chooses titles—Hammersley moves to Albuquerque—Some of his students.